As the editor of The Clermont Sun, I believe in trying to be as transparent, open and responsive as possible to the decisions I make every day in my duties as editor. I most certainly make mistakes and do not always reach the bar I set for myself. For example, I have a few reader emails I still need to respond to and I’m not always the quickest on responding to voicemails. But know that I hear you and I’m always listening.
Nonetheless, I would like to explain a controversy of sorts that arose recently involving a decision I made.
On the Fourth of July, I, the editor of The Clermont Sun, posted to The Sun’s social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter; sorry, we do not yet have an Instagram presence) one of the historical tidbits provided by local historian and longtime writer, Richard Crawford.
Years ago, Crawford provided The Sun a file containing, “Today in Clermont history,” for quite literally every day of the year, for events ranging from the early 1800s to as recent as the 1990s, from post offices opening to the history surrounding President Grant.
By its inherent nature, the “Today in Clermont history,” feature is often a fun nostalgic trip to the past. Given reader feedback since I started here, readers tend to like these historical throwbacks.
When I was looking for a “today in history” to coincide with the nation’s celebration of its independence, I was surprised to see a tidbit regarding the Ku Klux Klan. In 1923, the KKK hosted a celebration on Feesburg Road, east of Felicity.
This sort of tidbit didn’t jive well with much of what made up the, “Today in Clermont history,” file; it was provocative, especially considering it was listed as a marker in history on that particular day of all days.
Of course I had to post it. It was thought-provoking and interesting. One of the factors that goes into why I decide to post something, most especially these “today in Clermont history” facts is whether I have a Sun archival photo to go along with it or at least a worthy-enough stock photo I can use. Naturally, there are plentiful stock photos of the KKK.
Social media posts are anchored and bolstered by photos to go along with the words. In other words, posts with just words don’t gain as much traction and aren’t as interesting.
The stock photo I chose was of a KKK rally in Chicago in 1920. This photo worked for three reasons immediately: 1. It’s the KKK; 2. It’s the KKK within the same timeframe and 3.) It has the American flag clearly visible within the photo.
Is that tantamount to admitting to the sin in journalism of click-baiting? Not quite, as The Sun gains no clicks from these “today in Clermont history” posts on social media, it drives no monies to The Sun and overall, is merely an interesting way of engaging the readers.
But also yes, because I do want readers to, well, look at what The Sun is doing. That’s not to say I would ever sacrifice journalistic integrity or just plain human integrity to drive attention.
And I fully stand by my decision to post the KKK historical fact on our social media accounts on that particular day and believe it is in keeping with the aforementioned bounds of integrity. I certainly knew it would be provocative and turn heads, but history and truth often are and do.
History isn’t always fun. It isn’t always neat. It’s messy and complicated, but that’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it worth turning our minds back to the past to probe and examine it and see what we can extract as we pave new paths forward.
Ultimately, yes, at the behest of the publisher, I did delete the post on our social media accounts after reader feedback. Most of the comments amounted to, “Why was this necessary?”
I’m sympathetic to readers that see the Fourth of July as a fun holiday with fireworks and family and how seeing an image of the KKK come across their social media feeds might offend them. To them, I can only offer the shield of history as a defense and that as I’ve said, history is sometimes ugly.
At the end of the day, The Clermont Sun is a community paper that serves the community and community feedback matters. I cannot, however, promise that The Sun will always please everyone in the community.
But it is my hope that, should displeasure with our activities arise, it is because we are challenging the status quo, we are pushing and punching up against power when its wielded nefariously and because we were daring enough to strive for uncomfortable conversations.
I encourage anyone with further issues and concerns to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org